Post-Colonial arrogance: UK refuses to aid India in equitable growth

The government's decision to stop aid to India is the latest instalment in a history of ignoring India.


David Taylor is chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID)

The decision on Friday to withdraw UK aid to India beyond 2015 reveals a Secretary of State for International Development who is more concerned with the whims of her own MPs and the right-wing press than the wants of one third of the world’s poorest people.

It once again highlights the weak leadership, low ambition and poor vision that has come to characterise this government’s approach to development.

Friday also saw the OECD announce India, already a $1 trillion economy, may surpass the US over the long term – but they also predicted that, on current trends, the average Indian will still be four times poorer than the average Briton a full 50 years from now.

The Indian government must do more to share the proceeds of the country’s rapid growth. The governing Indian National Congress may not be our sister party but they are progressives and deserve credit for their Right to Education Act, their Rural Employment Guarantee social protection programme and for drawing up plans for a universal health care system based on our own NHS.

But to reduce India’s staggering inequality and ensure universal access for all, these programmes must be properly financed and comprehensively implemented.

Social Democrat-run Brazil demonstrates what can be achieved when a proper taxation system is established – their Bolsa Família social protection programme has cut the number of Brazilians living in poverty in half.

The Indian government must take the lead – but international partners including Britain could help provide useful technical assistance.

Whilst it is welcome Justine Greening is proposing such assistance, their values may get in the way of what is needed. Indian efforts to increase their tax base will hardly be helped by George Osborne’s decision to water down the UK’s anti-tax haven rules in this year’s budget – something ActionAid estimates will cost developing countries as much as £4 billion a year.

And their aversion to the public sector has seen them halve our funding for budget sector support – the very aid that helps countries build their own health and education systems by giving them the funds required to recruit and retain teachers, doctors and nurses – and one of their first acts in government was to axe Labour’s proposal for a Centre for Progressive Health Care Financing that would have supported poor countries to achieve universal access to health care.

Worst of all, as a panel of experts commissioned by Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh has been drawing up proposals for a universal health care system modelled specifically on our own NHS, DFID India has been nowhere to be seen.

As the mother of all universal health care systems, there could surely be no better moment for Britain to offer technical expertise – and our government’s continued unwillingness to help is truly reprehensible.

22 Responses to “Post-Colonial arrogance: UK refuses to aid India in equitable growth”

  1. Brown Jedi

    You know what India considers as middle class? Anyone earning 2300 GBP is taxable in India, compared to UK anyone below 8000 GBP is tax free. That’s only 6% of India’s total workforce. So, India taxes the poor to help the super-poor and even there are not many people to tax at all. So, wave your terms “fastest growing middle class” etc. all you want.

  2. Colin McCulloch

    India has been independent since 1947. That is ample time to get its act together and provide for its citizens. Britain certainly had a duty in the transition period, but we must focus our efforts at home and in other countries without the resources that India possesses.

    Your comments about income are noted, but bear in mind the costs of living in the UK and India vary markedly. £1 in India buys you a lot more than in the UK. Income is relative.

  3. piyu2cool

    Colin your post smacks of ignorance at best and arrogance at worst. Without nuclear weapons India will cease to exist. It needs a strong deterrent against anti India neighbors and India does have a long history of colonization at the hands of rogue rogue nations. As far as the space program goes, without it, much of the poor population will not have any access to communications and education. It is a must for upward mobility.

  4. piyu2cool

    Ample time? British were here for 150 years. Before that Muslims plundered India and destroyed Indian society for 700 years. Things won’t go to normal by a magic wand. India has come a long way. You are right Britain does not have any obligations to get involved with Indian affairs.

  5. Jimmy

    Britain committed many atrocities to India
    You ignoring that and being indignant is pretty insulting

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